A Species of Atavism. I like best to think of the rare men of an age as suddenly emerging after-shoots of past cultures, and of their persistent strength: like the atavism of a people and its civilisation: - there is thus still something in them to think of! They now seem strange, rare, and extraordinary: and he who feels these forces in himself has to foster them in face of a different, opposing world; he has to defend them, honour them, and rear them to maturity: and he either becomes a great man thereby, or a deranged and eccentric person, if he does not altogether break down betimes. Formerly these rare qualities were usual, and were consequently regarded as common: they did not distinguish people. Perhaps they were demanded and presupposed; it was impossible to become great with them, for indeed there was also no danger of becoming insane and solitary with them. It is principally in the old-established families and castes of a people that such after-effects of old impulses present themselves, while there is no probability of such atavism where races, habits, and valuations change too rapidly. For the tempo of the evolutional forces in peoples implies just as much as in music; for our case an andante of evolution is absolutely necessary, as the tempo of a passionate and slow spirit: and the spirit of conserving families is certainly of that sort.

Friedrich Nietzsche - The Gay Science
Book I - Aphorism # 10

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